Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Thought on Image Lecture for CSSA

Formative & Decorative Images

Image: a representation of the external form of a person or thing in art.

Image: a mental picture of a person, animal, or object summoned up by a word, phrase, or sentence. Images are often visual, but may appeal to any of our senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste and tough.

Imagery is the literary term used for language and description that appeals to our five senses. When a writer attempts to describe something so that it appeals to our sense of smell, sight, taste, touch, or hearing; he/she has used imagery.

The purpose of imagery is to take advantage of all of a reader's senses and build them into something vivid and real in the reader's imagination.

Basho’s Haikus

The crane’s legs                 A bucket of azaleas,                      A bee
have gotten shorter         in its shadow                                  staggers out
in the spring rain.             the woman tearing codfish        of the peony.

Circus Youth
My life was going by. Year. Cake. Year. Cake.
And no circus. No clowns. Only that rotten dress,
[. . .]

The Unavoidable Pigeon

I see it on Cabrillo. Midway through the crosswalk.
Some people spot an injured pigeon
tumbling down the street and think

good riddance. But how can I think that?
[. . .]

The Blue Dress

The first November after the divorce
there was a box from my father on my birthday—no card, but a
big box from Hink’s, the dark
department store with a balcony and
mahogany rail around the balcony, you could
stand and press your forehead against it
until you could almost feel the dense
grain of the wood, and stare down
into the rows and rows of camisoles,
petticoats, bras, as if looking down
into the lives of women. 
The box was from there, he had braved that place for me
the way he had entered my mother once
to get me out.  I opened the box—I had
never had a present from him—
and there was a blue shirtwaist dress
blue as the side of a blue teal
disguised to go in safety on the steel-blue water.
I put it on, a perfect fit,
I liked that it was not too sexy, just a
blue dress for a 14-year-old daughter the way
Clark Kent’s suit was just a plain suit for a reporter, but I
Felt the weave of the mercerized Indian Head cotton
against the skin of my upper arms and my
wide thin back and especially the skin of my
ribs under those new breasts I had
raised in the night like earthworks in commemoration of his name
A year later, during a fight about
just how awful my father had been,
my mother said he had not picked out the dress,
just told her to get something not too expensive, and then
had not even sent a check for it,
that's the kind of man he was.  So I
never wore it again in her sight
but when I went away to boarding school I
wore it all the time there,
loving the feel of it, 
just casually mentioning sometimes it was a gift from my father,
wanting in those days to appear to have something
whether it was true or a lie, I didn’t care, just to
have something.

--Sharon Olds (The Gold Cell)

Circus Youth
My life was going by. Year. Cake. Year. Cake.
And no circus. No clowns. Only that rotten dress,
blue and tumbling. I wanted to eat the buttons.

I wanted to feed the rest—cuffs and collar—
to the dogs. Let it be dung. Let it be
that common. I craved a ship. I desired

a texture wholly unlike my life. Clowns.
Funny rubber balls. Who handed me these knives
to juggle? Who said everything was going to be fine?

I know. I know. Childhood shows no mercy.
Others have had to catch much trickier knives—
all blade, no handle. No one meets our demands

for better maps or parents or more robust
Saint Bernards. The worst day of my life.
The circus. The tragic reality that it was a show.

Lions reduced to cats. Leather-clad men riding motorcycles
inside metal balls. The terror of the ringmaster,
so much like my grandfather, folding in a bow.

We took you, my parents said. And it wasn’t
a lie. Elephants in chains. Painted faces blistering
under the makeup’s grease. Afterward,

I ached on my sandbag pillow. Pots clattering
to the kitchen floor. A heap of a dead horse
melting in the field beyond my window.

Couldn’t there be a different circus? Music
piped at the happiest pitch?  Children so thrilled
they shit themselves in the stands and smile on?

And clown hands, clown necks, clown thighs put together
to assemble a truly hilarious thing?  Futile, I know,
I prayed for years. Slowly flowering in my bed. 

Certain of something. Wanting what I wanted.
Clown in my doorway. Clown on my floor.
A clown on my very own thumb.

Kristen Tracy 

The Unavoidable Pigeon                           

I see it on Cabrillo, midway through the crosswalk.
            Some people spot an injured pigeon
            tumbling down the street and think

good riddance.  But how can I think that? 
            I know this bird. I’ve seen it before. 
            Balboa. Anza. Clement. Its wounded

foot lifted high into its feathered body. 
            No, I will never take this bird home. 
            I root for it in other ways. What a survivor!

I pass it on the way to the post office,
            parading like a governor in a bright
            patch of sun. Don’t worry. This bird

will never break my heart. Not right now.
            Not tomorrow. Not next week when I find it
            hammered to the road. Poor bird. 

A ruptured viola. All of its red strings
            pulled out of it. Even with big dreams,
            a pigeon can only survive so long

on these streets. Had you asked me, had you
            been a reasonable being, I would 
            have warned you to stick to the sky.

 Kristen Tracy


What Makes a Story?

For me, a good a story requires that something happens that is so important, that by the end of the story the character is changed by it.

Where does your story happen?
When does your story happen?
Who is your story about?

Three Ideas from your real life:



Three ideas from your imagination:



How do you build a character?

Write a poem that shows how a single event in your life changed you. I’ve given you the title, the first few words of the first line, and the last line. Try to be as specific as possible. And try to keep your poem to less than ten lines or sentences. Remember, focus on the specific event (real or imaginary) and focus on how it changed you. Your poem doesn’t have to rhyme, in fact it will probably be easier if you write it without any rhymes. I’ll read you an example.

Autobiography: an account of a person’s life written by that person.


When I was

And here I am today

Autobiographi Literaria

When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.

I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.

If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out "I am
an orphan."

And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!
                        by Frank O’Hara

Update:  baby praying mantis continues to grow.  

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Thoughts on Characterization Lecture for CCSA

Elements of Fiction:

Point of View

Writing Prompt:  Two characters want the same physical thing. Write a scene between these two characters. The conflict cannot be resolved. One person cannot surrender the object to the other. They must both continue to want the object. Write this story with a beginning a middle and an end. Don’t bog yourself down with setting up the story with backstory. Simply begin. Begin with the conflict. They can be strangers. They can be friends. Lovers. Friends. Cousins. You decide.  I’ll give you 20 minutes.  Remember the object needs to be physical. Revenge, love, acceptance, forgiveness (and such) are too abstract. 

*Don't Look Ahead*

*I mean it*

*Stop reading*

*It's for your own good*

Fiction Response Sheet

1. What’s something that you liked a lot about the piece, something that you found really successful?

2. When did the conflict between the two characters become clear?

3. Did one character have a stronger motivation for getting the object or did you feel they were equal?

4. Did the scene start at a strong moment? In the middle of action?

5. Was the setting used effectively for this scene?

6. Did the dialogue help develop the characters? Point to one successful moment. 

7. Was the scene satisfyingly resolved?

8. Was there any place in the story where you think an anecdote or small amount of backstory would have helped strengthen one or both of the characters?

9. What’s the most helpful and specific piece of advice you could give the writer of this piece geared toward its revision?

Character Sheet

Making a character tree:

Feet: What are the basic and obvious facts about your character?

What do they look like?
What’s their occupation?
Surface level personal history.
--something embarrassing that has happened to him/her
--an accomplishment
--a failure they’ve suffered
--what is something they’re good at
--what is something

Groin: What your character wants.
Do they want to be liked?
Do they want to be left alone?
Do they want to boyfriend/girlfriend?
Do they want to buy something they perceive as life-changing?

Heart: All they things they need in their life to function. Based on the idea that everybody has a hole in their heart. Where is your character’s hole? What fills it?

These illuminate their flaws.

Throat: External personal. How you project yourself to the world.

Green snakeskin belt.
Mom drinks chai wears green ankle boot.
Hamberg Hoodie.

Left cheek:
How smart is your character?
How do they solve problems?

Right cheek:
What are your character’s ethics?

What is the full picture of this person?
What archetype do they fun under?

Practical questions I ask myself and expect my reader’s to see in the first three chapters.

1. How do they get to school?
Socioeconomic status.
Mobility in their own life.
Level on independence and supervision.

2. What’s her schedule?
3. Can I chart her day on a calendar?
4. What does her week look like?
5. What big assignments does she have coming up?

6. Who are her three best friends?
7. How long of they been friends?
8. How do they hang out?
9. What are their friendship rules?
10. Is there something they collective want?

11. What is the exact age of your character?
12. Where was she born?
13. How many times has she moved?

14. Does your character feel popular or unpopular?
15. Is she happy?

16. Who does she have a problem with?
17. Why?

18. What do her parents do?
19. How does she feel about their jobs?
20. What bothers her about her parents?
21. What are her household responsibilities?
22. What family rituals do they have?
23. If I looked at their photo album, what would I see?
24.Do they have any art in the house?
25. Who was in charge of decorating it?

26. Does your character have a phone? 27. What rules exist for this?
28. What’s most important in my character’s room?
29. Does she want to change anything?
30. How important is her closet?
31. Can I describe what I see in there?
32. Where does she shop? 33. Eat?
34. Does she keep a journal? 35. What does she say in it?

36. Does she have a pet?
37. What are her responsibilities?
38. What would happen if her pet got sick?

39. What are three things your character would never do?
40. Can you make her do one?

41. If she went on a trip where would she want to go?
42. How connected is she to her extended family?
43. Has anything she loved ever died?
44. What’s her level of interest in sports?
45. Does she have any hang ups about her physical appearance?
46. What’s the worst thing that’s ever happened to her?
47. What’s her greatest accomplishment and thing she’s most proud of.
48. What one word would she use to describe herself.
49. What would she buy in the vending machine?
50. When that doesn’t drop, what’s her second choice?

Who are you quick list?

Favorite food.
Favorite way to waste time.
Favorite daydream.
Favorite person in the story who isn’t her friend.  (Aspirational friendship)
Favorite memory.
Favorite dream.
Favorite article of clothing.
Favorite teacher.
Favorite subject.
Favorite assignment she’s working on.

Reverse it:
Least favorite food.
Activity she hates.
Worst memory.
Least favorite person in the story. Can be a terrible enemy or lightweight pest.
Worst experience so far in her life.
Worst nightmare.
Thing she hates to wear.
Teacher or other authority figure she doesn’t like.
Subject she struggles with.
Assignment she loathes.

These aren’t blanket dislikes. I’m trying to get at her reasoning and personal history. Why does she not like going to Idaho History?


What are the twenty things YOU want most in this world?

What are ten things that your character wants?

Where is there overlap? Do these lines cross?

I always like to have a picture in my posts. Here is something my husband found last week. Wild sprinkler honey. 

And here is a baby praying mantis living on my son's sunflower. It turns its head and looks at me every time I water the plant.